Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 19: Revolutions stirring

Previously Quills returned with a vengeance.

What do ghosts do while their mistress is on holiday? On the Haggismarshe Estate, it was summer, one of the most beautiful in years. The trees were filling out with their fruit. The planted crops were exactly where planted crops were supposed to be. The rain came when the rain was supposed to.

The staff were at their finest. The Manor House was spotless, a sparkling clean. Everything was prepared for her ladyship’s return whenever she desired. She had been a relief from the old fuddy-duddy Lord Dunnville Percival Wimpleseed-Prissypott. At first, they thought she would be a disaster. Two old pissy-pots instead of one. When they first learned that she was American, all had frowned. Even the seldom-frowning butler, Charles, frowned. Americans could be such savages.

Then they met her ladyship. They were duly impressed. She was young, vibrant, alive and breathing. The alive-and-breathing part impressed them the most. They genuinely liked her ladyship and were sad for her when she moped around the estate after old fuddy’s demise. When she left to go abroad, they were glad. Not for their sake, but for hers. It just wasn’t natural to have all that money and titles and be so melancholy. The death of old Wimpleseed-Prissypott must have been hard on the young bride. Her ladyship ought to have some fun.

For the ghost, Benjamin Patrick Nutt, her ladyship was an even more glorious experience. An American. Finally a fellow countryman, or in her case, countrywoman. So that summer he came out of his normal dingy, damp places. He’d even taken to having a spot of ghostly tea with the other two manor house ghosts, Earl Grey Wimpleseed and Sir Long John Longjohn Prissypott. During one of their ghostly teas, B. P. commented, “I miss those mighty fine bosoms. Mighty fine bosoms indeed.” The other two ghosts agreed.

When B. P. walked the halls, he would spring a bright “Howdy” on any human he came into contact with. It was not a boo-ish howdy or a howlingish howdy, rather the kind of howdy you say if you are in the peak of happiness. As he was. Unbelievably happy. The summer evenings after tea he went out on the Manor House lawn and lay in the hammock and dreamed of her ladyship’s return.

Then late one afternoon, a rider for the Headless Horseman Post Service came with the mail. To say that Benjamin Patrick Nutt, Earl Grey Wimpleseed and Sir Long John Longjohn Prissypott were surprised to see Headless would be an understatement. There had been no ghostly communication between Haggismarshe’s ghosts and the rest of the ghost world in forty or fifty years. The last mail they received had been about the conversion of Scrooge. The three had been happy about that. They had known how much it meant to the Marleys.

Headless approached the three as they were finishing their afternoon tea. He handed B. P. a letter. It was from Giles Gilesworth, the limping ghost butler at the Times. Ghosts did not receive letters from Giles unless the news was exceedingly disturbing. One could see the glee on Giles’ face as he wrote the letter. It had been such a long time since he had had anything of consequence to communicate to the English Ghost World. He felt like a weatherman during a hurricane. “I am sorry to report how bad the hurricane is. But I have a job to do. And, oh yes, I have a job.”

B. P. cut the seal and opened the letter. He read:

“I am so sorry to disturb you in your summer idyll. But I thought it urgent to communicate that the House of Lords is considering revoking Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott’s title and lands. They feel that the marriage was never consummated and should be annulled. But all is not hopeless. She has allies in the Lords and Her Majesty, the Queen, has taken an interest. This has been reported to me by the House of Lords’ very own ghost, Gregory of Hecklestag. Giles, ‘The Times’.”

The American ghost read the communiqué a second time. A frown crossed what existed of his face. Earl Grey Wimpleseed and Sir Long John Longjohn Prissypott each read it aloud. They were all trying to absorb the disturbing news. It was not that disturbing to Earl Grey and Sir Long John but they were distressed about their friend. Before the news, they had never seen B.P. in such a happy state. Now this news. What were they going to do?

***

No one called the Prime Minister Irving from Swirving any longer. No one called the Prime Minister four eyes any longer. No one called the Prime Minister the little man any longer. No one called the Prime Minister short cakes either. He was called Prime Minister or the PM for short.

A man of the people, he had come by his power and position the hard way. He had earned it, rising through the party ranks rung by rung. He began life as an orphan like Oliver Twist. Early on, he realized that he was either going to be condemned to a life of pickpocketry and theft or he would have to take his fate into his own hands and become a politician. He chose the second.

And now all that he had achieved was at risk. All because of some aristocrat called Wimpleseed-Prissypott. My God, the country seemed overrun by the titled breed. They grew like weeds. What must Lords be thinking to get the Queen all in a tizzy? This did not look good.

The Prime Minister’s carriage pulled up at Number 10. He stepped out and headed to the door. His Personal Secretary was waiting in his office.

“Prime Minister,” the P. S. said as the P. M. entered his office. “You look white as a ghost. What happened?”

The Prime Minister poured himself a good stiff drink, drank it and then poured another. “The Lords have gone and done it.”

“Done what, sir?”

He downed the second drink, then he sat down on the couch in the middle of the room.

“I don’t know. But those nincompoops are up to some skullduggery or other. That’s what you have to find out, P. S. We have to get control of this thing or it will be the end of us. Not only me. The Party as well.”

“But the Queen?” P. S. said.

“Yes, the Queen. Wales has gotten the old bitty in a tizzy about something or other that the Lords is up to. All I know is that it affects a Prissypott.”

“What is a Wissywott?”

“It’s a Prissypott. You need to go up to Lords and take a bit of a look around. See what our spies have to say.”

“Sir, did you get a chance to talk to Her Majesty about that other matter we discussed?”

“No, I didn’t get past this Prissypott matter.”

“The Duke of Pimpletonia said that it was urgent that Her Majesty be informed. Her life could very well be in danger.”

Next Week All is not well aboard the S. S. Twit

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 18: Whoop-de-doo

Previously there was trouble on board the S. S. Twit.

Poor Quills. Had he bit off more than he could chew, leaving his father on Gibraltar and heading off to God-knows-where? Cause Quills sure didn’t know.

“Quills” Loopsey found himself face down on a deserted Spanish beach, his mouth buried in the sand. It was a Spanish sand with a kind of paella taste: Valencian paella with white rice, green vegetables, meat, beans and seasoning. Since Quills was hungry after three days of Mediterranean Sea, it tasted pretty good. For sand, that is.

He rolled over and sat upright. Gazing at the sunrise in the distance, he contemplated his next move. And it was not England. Anyplace but England and its English society for the middle child of Sir Hackle Loopsey, the Governor-Commissioner of Gibraltar. His father was important in society. All you had to do was mention Sir Hackle and his lessers would swoon. He wanted his children to be important too. To rise high in English society, that had always been a Loopsey’s raison d’être.  It had been decreed since the beginning of King John’s reign, and it was still decreed.

“When you believe in your own import,” his father often said, “anything is possible. You too can rise high, even to a governor-commissionership of Gibraltar.” When his father said that, all Quills could think of was what a dead piece of rock Gibraltar was, guarding the entrance to the Meds.

Unlike his older brother, the fop’s fop Cheslewick, Quills did not want import. He wanted was his freedom. Now, that he had it, his stomach growled with hunger. Quills stood up and began the trek north off the beach. His bare feet hurt on the cobblestone road. But he was determined.

A mile or so up the road, a man on a white stallion mare rode out of the brush behind the Englishman. He halted his horse and pulled a pistol.

“Halt, Señor,” the man pointed his pistol straight at Quills.

Quills whipped around to see a man, dressed in black, holding a gun aimed straight at his heart.

“What is it you want?” Quills asked matter-of-factly.

“You are not afraid of me?” the man asked. “I am a highwayman. You have to be afraid of me.”

“Do not.” Quills placed his hands on his hips.

“This is a pistol. It is loaded.”

“So you’re a big bad bandido. Whoop-de-doo. Big whoop.”

“I am not a bandito,” the man, sitting astride his horse, said. “I am a highwayman.”

“There’s a difference?” Quills said.

“Si, Señor,” the highwayman said.

“And what is that?” Quills said, then sat down in the dirt. He’d decided that if he were about to be robbed, he might as well be robbed sitting down. Not that he had anything to rob but it was the principle of the thing.

“A highwayman has honor. He does not harm women and children and he gives generously. My generosity is known all over Spain.”

“It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money.”

“That is true,” the highwayman smiled.

“If you are a highwayman, how come there is no highway along here. There’s barely a dirt road.”

“I come here because this is where I find all the Englishmen.”

“Englishmen come to this desolate-looking place?”

“I know it is strange but you Englishmen seem to like the place. And where there is an Englishmen there is other people’s money.”

“Not with this Englishman,” Quills said.

“What do you mean, Señor?”

“I mean that you can ransom me all you want. But my father will never pay. Now, if you had kidnapped his firstborn, that would be a different story.”

“Ah, Señor, I think you are very wrong. Your father will pay well for you.”

“My father loves money and position more than he loves his children. Especially the second son. Haven’t you heard of the Curse of the Second Son?”

The highwayman was finding this Englishman interesting. He jumped down from his horse and walked over and sat down beside Quills. He looked down the dusty road and out to the sea. He loved the sea, especially where the land met the water.

“What is the Curse of the Second Son?” the highwayman asked.

“The first son inherits everything. The second son inherits the shaft. The only way out of this position is to marry well. But, since I am titleless, I am not likely to marry a rich American woman. My father has talked about a parish out in the country. But I’m not cut out for church life. I can’t be quiet as church mouse, keeping my mouth shut when I see the wrong in things.”

“This Curse of the Second Son,” the highwayman said, “I know this curse. I am a product of this curse. I am a second son.”

“Then you understand that I am not worth a hoot.”

“I’m afraid ‘tis true,” the highwayman said, pointing his pistol at Quills. “Unfortunately so. I like you.”

“I like you too,” Quills said. “For a bandit … I mean, for a highwayman you seem like a right sort of fellow.”

“Even though I like you, I still have to shoot you. I am sorry. I hate shooting people I like but it’s the nature of the business I am in.”

Quills looked stunned. “Now hold off, old chap. Just because you can’t ransom me off doesn’t me you have to shoot me.”

“Those are my choices, Señor. What other choice do I have?”

“You and I are sitting here. Like we are friends, and you about to put a bullet into me.”

“I am afraid so. I will aim for the heart. You will not suffer.”

“That’s not the point. You can’t shoot me.”

“Why can’t I? I’ve shot others. Not many. But I have shot others.”

“Why would you want to shoot me? I haven’t done anything.”

The highwayman’s white stallion walked over and nudged its nose against Quills’ forehead.

“Even your horse likes me.” Quills stroked the horse’s nose. The horse whinnied, then strolled over to stand under a tree and graze.

“If I let you go, you will tell the policia. They will come here and look for me. And I have to tell you, Señor, I am not hard to find.”

“Suppose you ransomed me? Wouldn’t I talk to the policia when I was released?”

“No, Señor,” the highwayman said. “After the ransom was paid, I would ship you off to England and never hear from you again.”

“I promise that, if you don’t shoot me, you will never hear from me again. Besides I can’t go to the policia.”

“You can’t go to the policia?”

“That is right. If I go to the policia, they will contact my father. And he will come and get me. Then I will be enslaved to some sort of boring life forever. I had one chance, and I took it. So, you see. No policia for me-a.”

“Hmmm,” the highwayman said. “Let me say that again. Hmmmm.”

“It must be a two-hmmmm day,” Quills said, rubbing his chin, trying to come up with a solution to the situation the two found themselves situated in. “What we in England call a real hmmm-dunger. Just what are we going to do, you and I?

“I don’t really want to kill you, Señor. I like you.”

“And I like you,” Quills said.

“I think we’ve said that a couple of times,” said the highwayman. “Pretty soon the reader is going to get bored.”

“I see your point. You are not going to ransom me. There’s no money in that. You are not going to shoot me. I would be on your conscience. You do have a conscience?”

“Si, I do have a conscience.”

“Because you are a highwayman. If you were a bandito, I would be a dead man.”

“That is true. Very true, Señor. So the only solution is that I let you live and you go on your way as if you never saw a highwayman.”

“That’s right,” Quills said. “On second thought.”

“There is a second thought?”

“Why don’t I join you?”

“What do you mean? I don’t have a gang. I don’t share with anyone. Now I am going to have to shoot you.”

“Just hold onto your pistolla there,” Quills said. “What if we joined up together. Like they say, two is better than one any day.”

“What makes you so sure we can trust each other?” the highwayman wanted to know.

“Did I say that we can trust each other?” Quills waved the thought away. “Of course, we can’t. But think. It may be that it is you and me against the world. Two Second Sons getting what’s rightfully ours.”

“So where should we start our new life together?”

“I’ve always wanted to see Barcelona.”

“Barcelona, it is. My name is Hector Umberto Alacia.”

“You can call me Quills.”

The two men stood up, dusted the dirt off their pants and shook hands.

“Partners,” Quills said.

“Partners, Señor?” the highwayman said. “By the way, do you know how to use a weapon, Señor Quills?”

“Do I know how to use a weapon, Hector? You name the weapon and I can use it. Swords, fists, pistols, I’ve learned them all.”

“But have you ever killed another man, or injured him?”

“No, can’t say that I have,” Quills said.

“Señor Quills, it is different when you have killed a man. It turns you inside out and outside in. You may not be ready for that when trouble comes, and trouble always comes.”

“You might be right. But I’ll never know until it happens. Right now, I am ready for anything.”

“Even highway robbery?”

“Even highway robbery.”

Hector Unberto Alacia smiled. “Well, Quills, we shall see.”

“Yes, we shall see.”

“First we must acquire you new clothes, clothes that will befitting of your new profession. Then we will need to get you a pistolla and a horse. What kind of horse would you like?”

“A black one will do,” Quills said.

The two walked over to Hector’s horse. Hector stopped. “I think I hear your first employment arriving. Let us hide and watch.”

Hector led the horse behind a large tree. Quills followed. The two waited. Soon there was the carriage of a well-off nobleman passing their tree. Hector jumped into the saddle and raced past the carriage and its horses. Then he turned and faced the oncoming vehicle. He pulled his pistolla. He fired into the air. The carriage stopped.

“Señors, Señoras, Señoritas, if you will step from the carriage I would most appreciate it. And you, driver, throw down the luggage please.”

“Señor,” the driver protested. “This is the carriage of the Capitan of the King’s Guards. You do not—.”

Hector fired into the air. “The luggage please.”

“Si, Señor.” The driver nervously reached over and tossed the luggage to the ground. Only one man stepped out of the carriage. He was dressed in very fine clothes. He wore several expensive rings around his fingers.

The man had a snarl on his face. “Who would dare—”

“Me, Señor,” Hector said as his horse reared. “Now face the carriage and do not move or you will be a dead Capitan.”

Fancy turned and faced the carriage.

“Now, driver, you step down to the ground please,” Hector said. He called to Quills, “Mi amigo, come and tie these two up and blindfold them. Then we shall see what we have.”

The haul was very lucrative. Hector took the gold coins in the bag that the man was carrying. There was enough there for a horse, a pistolla and clothes for his new companion. In the meantime, Quills took the man’s rings and opened his luggage. His clothes would fit Quills quite nicely until he could acquire new duds for his new career.

This was his first robbery. It was not his last.

Next Week: The Ghosts with the Mostest are back.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 17: Ballroom Dancing

In the previous episode, Lady P.P. confronted Smythie Smathers with a knife. S.S. revealed that he arrived from the future in a DeLorean. He was pursuing of Mata Hari. That did not let him off the hook-ski.

That evening our heroine wandered into the ship’s only ballroom alone. So far, it was an interesting voyage. She had found her womanhood, and she was bound and determined not to lose it again.

Soon Alexandria, that mysterious city built by the Great, would be in sight. First Istanbul, then the S. S. Twit, and it had been two weeks since she had slept under clean sheets. Nothing brought a smile to a rich American girl’s lips more than clean sheets. Maybe she might find them there.

A short man wearing a monocle approached her. “Pipsqueak Pimplesquat at your service.” Mr. Monocle clicked his heels together, saluted, and offered, “Madame, would you care to dance the light fantastic?”

“I do believe I will,” Marye agreed to his proposal. “But don’t get too friendly. I am not an easy lay-di.”

“I assure you that I am a gentleman,” he said, offering her his arm. He took her into his arms. They moved onto the dance floor, the dashing German dashing across the floor with the lovely young American widow with lots of moolah and a title.

On the stage before the orchestra stood the world famous Tootles “The Tootler” Tootle Lou. She crooned her song, “The tub may be sinking but the water’s fine.” Everyone watched the couple move body to body over the floor, ooh-ing and ah-ing their admiration. Then the band went into a ragtime swing. The couple did the do, dancing the Doodlebug.

Suddenly, from the ship’s crow’s nest, a sailor called, “Iceberg! Iceberg!”

This stunned everyone. The ship was in the Mediterranean. There shouldn’t be an iceberg anywhere near the Mediterranean. Panic set in.The voyagers didn’t know what else to do, except panic. It was a lesson they’d learned many times over. The Dancing Panic of 1518. The Penis Panic of 1843. The Wall Street Panics of 1873 and 1893. If it was good enough for dancing, penises and Wall Street, why not on board the S. S. Twit?

They were doing what the Wall Street rag, “Rooster Tooth”, suggested in a twenty-first century incarnation. They were “People Acting Normal in Crazy-Ass Situations.” The passengers and the crew ran hither and thither, thither and hither aboard the ship.

The sailor in his crow’s nest called, “Just kidding, folks. No iceberg.”

But it was too late.

Next Week: The Return of Quills

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 16: A Ship of Fools

A Texan saves the day

Previously Daddykins hired a lawyer to make sure his daughter kept her titles.

Dear Reader, I suspect that you have been wondering when our story occurred. If you look on the map of history, you will find it located somewhere between the Franco-Prussian War and the Great War, that fiasco called the War to End All Wars. Of course, that was the Big Lie. That war didn’t end anything. If anything, it created even more stress on the world stage.

Actually, one could say the time of the novel was around 1896. In fact, I think I will state that very thing. It was 1896.

In those days, Great Britain was the Big To-Do and America some backwater colony. However, the Americans were sneaking up on the British. Soon they would have to bail their cousins across the pond out and save them from the Kaiser. But that is another story.

Science was sciencing. But Albert still had not discovered his e=mc two Einsteinian theory. The Curies were still dating, and I don’t mean carbon dating. The only Big Bang anybody had heard of was the toilet flushing; indoor plumbing was all the rage.

The last we heard of her ladyship, Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe, she was on the S. S. Twit twit-twit-twittering toward Egypt. After a night of rolling in the hay with a certain Smythie Smathers, she awoke alone. No British troubleshooter for the Royal Beeswax and Petroleum Jelly Corporation of East Potterdam next to her.

In the dining room, she found him carousing with a certain Frenchwoman, Crepe Suzette.

“Dear, do not make a scene,” Smathers demanded, a smirk on his smirk of a face.

“I’m making a scene?” she said. “I’m making a scene. I’ll show you a scene.”

The American picked a sharp knife off the table and raised it over her head.

Someone behind her grabbed her hand and wrenched the knife from it. She turned around. Before her stood a long, tall Texan in a big white hat. He placed the knife on the table.

“What the–?” she went to say.

“Ma’am, this piece of British trash isn’t worth it.”

“I resemble that remark,” Smythie Smathers said from his table, his face white from his close call with a knife.

“Who in the name of Brooklyn do you think you are?” Marye said to the Texan. Our heroine was angry and getting angrier by the second.

“Studdley Duddley at your service, ma’am,” he tipped his hat toward her ladyship. “I am a Texan.”

Her ladyship thought, “But of course. Every adventure must have a Texan in it. It doesn’t matter if he has anything to contribute. They just drop from the sky to dirty the waters of the story. And this story has to have this fool.”

“Go try your risk at whist,” Smythie Smathers said to the Texan. “You’re not wanted at this party.”

“Many prefer the game of whist,” Studdley said, standing there with his tongue hanging out staring at her ladyship’s morning bosoms. “But me, I am a stud poker man. The emphasis being on ‘stud’, ma’am. As all my lady friends will testify, my war cry is ‘Stud, poke her’. Old Studdley does try his best. But it seems my services are not needed here. So, it’s onward and upward. Remember what old Studdley told you. If you ever make it to Texas, you will have the bluest eyes in the state.” He tipped his hat and dropped out of sight.

She looked at S. S. and frowned. “What do you have to say for yourself, you Smythie Smathers?”

He looked at the knife on the table, reached over and removed it from danger. Anything to get it out of the way of this Madwoman from Brooklyn Heights by way of Haggismarshe.

“It isn’t what you think,” he said quietly, then turned to Crepe Suzette. “Crepe, go feint a faint or do something quaint and make yourself scarce. I have to straighten out our American friend.”

Crepe slipped off into the morning to sweeten up some other man’s breakfast. After all, that is what she did.

“What do you mean,” her ladyship demanded, “straighten out our American friend? You’d better have a damned good answer or this Brooklyn Heights girl is going to be doing some straightening out herself.””

“I am sorry, Your Ladyship,” Smythie said. “I only meant … I certainly would be much more comfortable if you sat down and joined me for a cup of morning tea.”

“This had better be something on the better side of good,” she said. “I won’t have tea. I am a coffee-drinking woman and I like my coffee strong and straight-up, no cream, no sugar. Like I like my men. And you don’t qualify.” She pulled out a chair and sat down and stared at him with a don’t mess-with-me stare.

S. S. called over to a waiter. “A cup of coffee for her ladyship.”

The waiter frowned. He would get the coffee but it wasn’t right. One had tea, not coffee. He had a cup of the black drink once. It tasted awful. And he couldn’t sleep for a week afterward. But he would get it. After all, that was his job. Getting things.

He went and pulled a cup off the counter. He poured coffee into the cup. He whispered to another waiter nearby, “When she is through with her coffee, we’re going to have to destroy the cup. The dishwasher will never get the awful taste of the black brew out of the cup.”

The coffee arrived with sugar and cream.

“You can take that away,” her ladyship said to the waiter. “Can’t stand sugar or cream with my coffee.” She lifted the cup to her lips.

S. S. leaned over and whispered, “I am on a mission for the government.”

The black coffee shot from her mouth and onto his face. She laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding. You mean to tell me that the government asked you to bop me while I was mopping up the floor bopping you last night. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Let me just say plastics,” Smathers whispered some more as he wiped the coffee off his face.

“Plastics?” her ladyship quizzed.

“Yes, plastics,” Smathers whispered even more.

“What in the name of Abe Lincoln are plastics?” her ladyship asked.

“Shhhh,” Smathers whispered. “Someone who shouldn’t might hear you say the magic word. It might even be He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named.”

Our heroine was almost on the floor with laughter. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. What had made her think that this Smythie Smathers was worth her time of day, much less her night in bed? Her taste in men … could it get any worse? Compared to this clown, Dilly was Prince Charming.

Then again maybe he was on to something. She sat up straight and calmed herself. “Okay, I’m all ears. But remember John Smith did not raise a fool for a daughter. I may be a British ladyship but I ain’t some gullible rube you can reel in with your line about some plastics.”

“Yes, plastics. Oh, you mean you haven’t seen the movie ‘The Graduate’?”

“What’s a movie? It’s 1896 and I have never heard of this thing you call a movie. What the—is a graduate? I mean I graduated from high school. Guess that makes me a graduate. But I am not sure about you, fellow. What loony factory did you come out of?”

“I am from the future, old girl. I came here via a Delorean but I ran out of gas. Since I am on a secret mission, I had to practice my missionary work last night.”

“That had better be practice,” her ladyship leaned over and whispered. “If that is the best you can do, you had better find another position. Because you’re not that good at this one. And just what in the name of everything that is American is a Delorean?”

“No, no, no,” Smythie Smathers whispered back at her. “You misunderstand.”

“You deflower my honor,” her ladyship complained, “and now you’re coming up with some cock and bull story that you’re from the future. It’s slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am. Well, no thank you, sir. No thank you.” She goes to stand up.

S. S. puts his hand on her gloved hand.

“Let go of my hand,” her ladyship said, “or I’ll call Mr. Tex back over here. And he can wax up the floor with you.”

“Please let me explain,” he pleaded.

“First let go of my hand. Then explain.”

He released her hand like it was a hot potato.

“Make it fast,” she demanded. “I am in the mood for a good lunch. And you’re starting to turn my stomach.”

“Yes, yes,” he said, getting on with it. “As I said I am on a mission from the government in the future. I have to stop some woman named Mata Hari. If I seduce you, I will be able to seduce her. I realized that you would be the much harder to seduce. Now I know I can seduce her.”

“Mata Hari? I know that name. I met her on a train but I never knew she had fame, that dame. She promised me a knife in the heart if she caught up with me again.”

“Yes, that sounds like the one and the same. She’s a spy. If I seduce her, I can slow her down and she won’t be able to meet up with the world famous American big game hunter, Johnny Eager. He has a package for her.”

“I see. I am still not overly convinced you are being absolutely truthful. The future and all? Do you think I am one of your Crepe Suzettes? I am not a tart, French or otherwise. Sounds like you and your conscience ought to have a conversation. Spy indeed.”

“I am afraid I don’t have a conscience. When you are in the missionary game the way I am, you can’t afford one. It is the white man’s burden after all. I say, would you care to help me practice some more later. I could use another session and you’re quite good, you know.”

She jumped up and slapped him with one of her white gloves. “You cad. How dare you? You’re after one thing and it is not Mata Hari. You want to get back into my pantaloons, don’t you? Well, thank you very much, but no thank you.”

“May I be of service, ma’am?” A large man in an even larger uniform extra-large stepped up beside her.

“My, my, what big stripes you have,” her ladyship said. She smiled her largest smile of the day, even larger than she had smiled the night before.

“Sgt. Mack Truck of the United States Gyrenes at your service, ma’am.”

“Kind sergeant,” Marye said, “would you please take my arm and escort me from these proceedings? The stench is getting too much for me, and I fear I shall faint.”

He took her arm and the two walked away from Smythie Smathers’s table. Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott looked back at the spy’s table. He had been rejoined by Crepe Suzette. “May I offer you a treat, Sergeant,” she asked the big fellow, “for your gallant rescue?’

“I do like pastry, ma’am,” the Truck offered.

“I am sure you do.” She smiled an even wider smile than before.

Next week: Will Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott ever make it to Egypt?

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 15: Daddykins Does London

What’s a rich man without a solicitor?

Previously Johnny Eager, big game hunter extraordinaire, had a tete-a-tete with a rhinoceros.

The sign above the office door on the London street said “Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law.” “Kind of like lawyers, these solicitors, only English,” thought John Smith, Lady P. P.’s Daddykins. He checked the address to see if it was the one given him by his friend, the prominent New York City lawyer, Norman Amelioretius Nestorsteen. It was.

John Smith had come to London to “give the old girl a poke,” the old girl being his Pocahontas Shipping Line. It was his way of making sure the business got the hands-on treatment she needed. A poke here and a poke there and pretty soon things were hokey-pokey-ing along nicely. All that poking had turned the Shipping Line from a line of tramps into the proper ladies the ships were meant to be.

When he heard the news that there were those about to commit malfeasance against his only child and cheat her out of her titles, he did what he always did. He took matters into his own hands. He was not about to allow anyone to steal what was rightfully hers. But to get to the right course of action, he first had to gather all the facts. Then he would give things the poke they needed to resolve them in his little Mary-Mary’s favor.

He opened the door and stepped into the solicitors’ office. Behind two small desks sat two small men, one on the right, the other on the left. Immediately John Smith knew which was Fop and which was Flimby. Like Chessie, Quill’s older brother, Fop was dressed to the nines with a spot of rouge on each cheek. Any woman would have been pleased to be seen at his side in society. The American could tell he was a dandy dude or rather a doodley dandy as his rich buds back in the Big Apple would say. A regular fop-about.

However, to say that his partner, Flimby, was dog-faced insulted the breed. Hyena yes, dog no.

“Mr. Flimby?” John Smith bowed his head toward Flimby. “Mr. Fop?” He bowed in the direction of Flimby’s partner.

“Yes,“ Flimby said. He was always the one who said the said first.

“Isn’t there a Mr. Flip as well? At least, that’s what I was told.”

Flimby harrumphed his best harrumph, then spoke in a solictoristic monotone, “Not to be flippant about it, Mr. Flip is no longer with the firm. He became rather flippant with a case not too long ago. Drove the client flappers if you know what we mean. Ended in a duel and had himself dueled to death.”

“I see,” John Smith said, looking around the office. There were books and papers and papers and books scattered everywhere. “Let me introduce myself. My name is John Smith and I need your help.”

Fop took a sniff of snuff from his diamond snuff box. “You are not English.” Fop sniffed. “Aristocratic English gentlemen are our only clients.”

“You were recommended. Your reputation is highly regarded by your peers in America.”

Flimby was duly impressed that the firm’s reputation had made it all the way across the pond to the Colonies. He stood up to offer John Smith a chair. “Perhaps we could …”

“We cannot,” Fop interrupted. “It isn’t done, sir.”

Little did Fop know that what John Smith wanted he got. John Smith was a gambler, and he knew how to convince others to show their cards. He had bluffed most of his life. Bluffing was what he did and bluffing was what he would do now.

“I see,” John Smith said, accepting Mr. Flimby’s offer of a chair. “Then you don’t need money. Because I have money. A lot of money. And I am here to make any inconvenience worth your time.”

“You have money?” Flimby asked.

Fop challenged his partner, “It isn’t done, Mr. Flimby. How could we ever live with ourselves?”

“Money can soothe,” John Smith winked, “the worried mind.”

“That’s true, Mr. Fop. Money does soothe. And we do like money, do we not?”

“You’d sell your soul to the devil, Mr. Flimby, if you thought it would bring in a pound.”

“How else are you going to bribe Saint Peter to get him to let you through those Pearly Gates?” John Smith said. “Money does that.”

Fop was having none of this. “It will get you a first-class ticket to hell.”

This was always their strategy. Flimby would be hospitable, offer to take the case. Fop would have an excuse to refuse it. The client would offer more money. Eventually the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Mr. Fop would yield. Regretfully so. Still, he would yield.

“I would hate,” John Smith said, “to have you go against your conscience. I suppose I must find another solicitor to take the case. But I had heard you gentlemen were very receptive.”

Fop realized he was losing the case. Like the good solicitor he was, he yielded to a point of order. “It is possible that my conscience could be soothed if it was an interesting case. Of course, it would have to be interesting.”

“I see,” John Smith said. “It does involve a titled person.”

“Ah,” Flimby said, sitting back down behind his desk. “A titled person you say.”

“You don’t say.” Mr. Fop popped a lozenge into his mouth. His interest was piqued in a piquéd sort of way.

“I do say,” John Smith said.

“Tell us more.” Flimby was all ears and that was an easy thing to say since his ears looked like wings that could lift his head right off his tiny little body.

“It involves a certain Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe.”

“How do you know this lady?” Mr. Fop winked. “Your mistress?” A mischievous grin crossed his face. This was getting interesting indeed.

John Smith’s face turned red. But he held his anger in check. A smile crossed his lips. When he wanted to check his anger, he smiled. “I resent the implication, sir. Said lady is my daughter.”

“I do apologize, Mr. Smith,” Flimby said, “for my impetuous partner. At times, he gets carried away a bit. I am sure he meant no harm. Did you, Mr. Fop?”

“I do apologize,” Mr. Fop said apologizingly. “I only meant to say … oh, never mind. I apologize. Sincerely I do. Am I forgiven, Mr. Smith?”

“Well,” John Smith said hesitatingly. He now had these gentlemen in his hands. They owed him for the rudeness of Fop, and he wasn’t about to let the rooster out of the hen house, no sirree. “Here is the situation. There is talk coming from your House of Lords concerning my daughter. I want you to investigate the matter. If there is any proof, I would like a list of men who might be receptive to changing their minds. If you know what I mean.”

“We could do that,” Flimby said.

“It might be costly,” Mr. Fop said.

“You let me take care of the persuasion. You worry about the sense and sensibility. I want you to relate to me who has the sense and who has the sensibility. That way I can be persuasive with their pride and prejudice.”

“Ah,” Mr. Fop said, revealing his true self, a man who cared more for cash than for privilege. “This could be very interesting indeed. Might even involve members of the Queen’s own household. They might be persuaded. The old biddy does keep them on a short lease, economically speaking.”

John Smith rose out of his chair. “So, we have a deal?”

“I do believe so,” Flimby said. “It may take some time. But I do believe so.”

“How may we reach you, Sir?” Mr. Fop asked.

“I shall be at the Northanger Abbey Hotel. I can be reached there.” John Smith reached over and shook their hands. Then he went to the door, opened it and walked out onto the London street.

 Next Week a Texan saves the day.